Thanks to the kindle and self-publishing revolution, there are now a ton of books out there that never would have been published during the golden age of publishing companies. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, publishing companies are a business, and above all else, they want to make money. This usually leads to rejecting even good books and ideas if they’re too unique, because there’s no guarantee they’ll sell. Whereas throwing out Fifty Shades of Copycat for the 500th time is, apparently, successful.
On the other hand, the ebook revolution can also be a bad thing. Because publishers and editors in the olden days also acted as gatekeepers of sorts. Only the competent may pass. If you had crappy grammar, you could usually rely on an editor to help you out, but if your story just straight up sucked, you weren’t getting published.
That is no more. Now, anyone can get published. And everyone does get published; the brilliant, and the not-so brilliant. Unfortunately, the not-so brilliant tend to choke up the market with their “masterpieces,” making it difficult for those of us who take our craft seriously to get noticed. So we need to be twice as vigilant to get half as much of a chance.
I’ve noticed five main different kinds of self-published writers out there on the internet. Chances are that everyone who’s thrown a book onto Amazon fits into at least one of these boxes. For the sake of analogy, let’s pretend that the online publishing and marketing world is a pool party that all the self-published authors of the world have been invited to. What kinds of party guests do they make?
- The Get-Rich-Quick (GRQ) Schemer
- This is the person who came to show off. They start their time at the party with a big, dramatic cannonball or dive. And when their dramatic entrance failed to get them attention, they stomped off in a huff, never to be seen again. Remember, this isn’t about the pool party, the other guests, or even just enjoying the water. It’s all about them.
- This person apparently doesn’t know much about the writing business, because he (or she) seems to think that writing is a quick way to fame and fortune. Joke’s on you, because unless you’re a literal one-in-a-million, you will not hit it big with less than… ten to fifteen books in the market. Maybe more, maybe less.
- Their book may not be bad, but it will likely be clichéd and not very memorable. Chances are that they’re chasing fads and “following the leader” à la the erotica revolution following Fifty Shades of Grey’s success, or the teen supernatural romance revolution following Twilight’s success, or the teen apocalyptic romance following Hunger Games’ success.
- Chances are that, when their first book doesn’t hit it into the six-figures-or-more income like they were hoping, they never publish another book again. They move on to other jobs that may actually work as get-rich-quick schemes.
- The Discouraged
- These are the people who came to the party excited and thrilled to attend. They thank their host and are perfectly polite, until they dip their toes in the water and decide that it’s too cold for them. And it’s too bad, because the water is lovely once you get used to the temperature.
- These people are the tragic cousin to the GRQ schemer. But whereas the GRQ schemer is only in it for the money, the Discouraged likely really wanted to be writers. They just didn’t know how the market worked, and likely will not come back to writing after it fails to let them quit their day jobs.
- I’ve met these sorts of people in person before. They’re always surprised when I mention that I’m an author, and usually tell me that they’ve published one or two or maybe even three books, but it never went anywhere. I always feel so bad for them because, while they usually want to write, they have no idea how to do it and make money at the same time.
- The Crappy Carla/Dumpy Dominick
- These are the people who try to be polite at the party. Key word being try. They will usually end up “accidentally” offending someone, or being insincere or insensitive. It’s probably not deliberate, they just don’t realize how they come across, and most of the other guests are too polite to tell them “Hey! You’re being a jerk!” Unfortunately, even if another guest does work up the courage to say something, the Crappy Carla and Dumpy Dominick are more likely to brush them off than change their ways.
- Their books are… bad. I’m not gonna sugar-coat it for you.
- Unlike the previous two, I don’t think these people will stop at just one or two books. Because, for some reason, people will buy even crappy books.
- It’s more than likely that these are people who truly do want to be writers. They just don’t know how to do it well. They either can’t afford or don’t know that they need an editor or beta reader(s). Their story is likely to be all over the place, if not completely incomprehensible.
- Unfortunately, there’s very little you can do to discourage a Crappy Carla or Dumpy Dominick. I’d like to politely tell these people that they should really look into editors for their next book, but they’d likely just ignore me. That’s not to say that they’re bad people; pretty much all writers adore our stories, and we don’t usually appreciate the insinuation that they’re anything but perfect.
- The Personal Penelope/Peter
- These people don’t come to the party for the water, or even to have fun. They come to treat the hosts and guests alike as personal therapists, and the party as one big therapy session.
- These people tend to be more prone to writing memoirs, personal essays, or power fantasies. You can usually tell that they’re using writing as a form of therapy because of how connected they get to the main character. Usually too connected, likely turning said character into a Mary Sue.
- These people don’t really care about the writing business or about making money. They usually either A) wrote a story specifically for their friends and family and listened to Aunt Muriel’s suggestion that they publish it online for the whole world because it’s that good, or B) are working through some issues and used writing as an outlet.
- They’re not likely to change, because again, they’re not really in it for the writing. Their books may not be terrible, but they likely won’t be very enjoyable either.
- The Self-Published Career Author
- These are the guests you want, the people getting invited back to the next party. They come to have fun and mingle in equal doses, splitting their time between the water and the poolside. They enjoy themselves, and make sure they’re not stepping on anyone else’s toes in the process. They’re fun to be around, and they don’t hog your time or attention.
- These people know what they’re doing. Their books are polished, if not always flawless. They do their best, and genuinely care about their stories while not growing so attached that their characters have an easy time of it.
- This is the kind of writer I want to be.
- They know that they need to get a lot of books out there. They know that income takes a while to build up. They know how the business works. They are always improving, always moving up.
Let’s all try to be good party guests, shall we? The world is our pool, and we’re here to make sure that our potential customers don’t hate us for it. Let’s not use them as therapists or personal money trees.